Henk van Woerden - A Mouthful of Glass
In 1966 Demitrios Tsafendas killed South African premier Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid. In this powerful book Henk Van Woerden reconstructs the life of Tsafendas and gives at the same time a personal and intimate account of the South African trauma.
Tsafendas was born half-Greek, half-African, in colonial Mozambique, a world defined by racial prejudice. Van Woerden describes the man’s flight from country to country and his failure to fit anywhere. He was Christian, communist, coloured, black, white. Rejection and disintegration went together; by the end he was taking orders from creatures dwelling in his body. Was he mad, or was the madness outside him?
This traumatic life fascinated Van Woerden who, as a young white boy emigrated to South Africa and later returned to the Netherlands but was unable to settle. Van Woerden is also looking for a ‘home’ and seems to have found it at the end when he eventually meets Tsafendas. It is a sad and moving ending because homecoming here is inevitably coming home to the edge of an insanity that is part of everyday life in South Africa.
Henk van Woerden (1947-2005) grew up in Leiden and moved to Cape Town, South Africa, at the age of ten. From 1965 to 1967 he studied at the School of Fine Arts in Cape Town, before returning to Europe in May 1968. His prose debut Don’t Look (1993) received the Geertjan Lubberhuizen Award for best literary prose debut. A Mouthful of Glass is the third part of his South African trilogy.
- ‘A thoroughly successful blend of biography and fiction, suggesting in intriguing ways how a new history of South Africa might be written.’ – J.M. Coetzee
- ‘A quietly devastating work of reconstruction, giving back to the supposedly insane assassin a history of perpetual statelessness.’ – The Observer